Monday | April 14, 2003
A culture of fear
Having lived through 9/11, and believe me, there is nothing like seeing an F-15 fly over Central Park at 3,000 feet armed, I'm mystified at the sense of fear which has gripped this country. The whole freedom fries debacle and the boycott of French food is not a rational reaction.
Americans have simply refused to come to grips with two things: one, the intense hatred for our policies around the world, only made more intense by the Iraq war, two, the paranoia which has swept across suburban America. The whole idea of plastic sheeting and duct tape was as logical as duck and cover and a future generation will laugh heartily at images of Tom Ridge telling us to buy things most people would have under their kitchen sink.
Dr. Phil was talking to some suburan woman frightened to death of terrorism and I had to laugh. I have friends who survived 9/11, there isn't a firehouse which didn't lose a member that day, I smelled the burning remains of human beings for days, living five miles away from WTC, my friend swept "ash"-really human remains and paper-from her apartment for days, since, at the time she lived in downtown Brooklyn. We are all getting on with our lives. No Al Qaeda team is coming to wreak havoc on her subdivision.
It was a horrible day, and unless you actually went in the buildings, you have no idea how horrible to see a place you know, you've eaten and shopped in, turned into a hunk of twisted metal. But no one I know lives in dire fear of terrorism. And they still order french fries. Excuse me, am I supposed to drink Bulgarian rot gut to prove my patriotism? I'm a beer drinker by inclination, but I'm certainly not going to pass on drinking chardonnay because of foreign policy issues? You don't get a free picture of Saddam with every bottle of wine.
We are exapanding a culture of fear in the US and it plays on the increasing inability of Americans to accept risk of any sort. We hide our children from strangers when child stranger abduction is a rarity. Most kids are stolen by relatives from other relatives. Every bottle is sealed, every playground covered by rubber matting.
This fetish of "supporting the troops" is a cynical exercise at best. Supporting them with higher salaries, better housing and maintianing veteran's benefits is impossible, but you can send them handiwipes. You can hold rallies for them where you encourage warmongering, but jobs? Nah, they don't need jobs. Let them deliver Dominos pizza for extra money. Let them buy cars they can't afford and take their monthly pay for a hooptie. That's how Americans really support the troops. Two months from now, the only people who will care about or troops in Iraq are their spouses, relatives and siblings.
The "concern" for the troops is really just another thing to worry about. Which is why Bush is able to use them for a photo op while they lay in hospital beds at Walter Reed and Bethesda. Our poor troops are in danger, we have to support them. Why they were placed in this danger and the resentment that their presence in Iraq causes is never to be be questioned, unless you want to be deemed unpatriotic. A support our troops rally turned into a turgid GOP booster rally, complete with construction workers playing the role of all-American yahoo. Bush and Rove cynically use their sacrifce to stifle a long needed debate on not just Iraq, but on the overall failure of US foreign policy.
As long as you're focused on 19 year old privates you would normally sneer at if they screwed up your food order, you won't ask about the wreckage of Bush foreign policy decisions.
Their disgustingly inappropriate use of 9/11 will, in the end, cause a backlash. People will eventually realize that the President and his advisors played us. They used a true tragedy and what should have been a turning point not only in policy, but our culture, that we live in a truly interconnected world, has instead turned into the rationalization for even more fear and isolation.
Steve GilliardPosted April 14, 2003 04:57 AM | Comments (262)